(aka: The Day I Broke Two Hours in a Half Marathon)
I had a 3 mile run on Saturday morning planned, after two days of scheduled rest. And during that run, which felt nearly effortless, I had this thought.
I was breaking two hours.
Wasn’t even a question.
Jeff, Owen and I got to the Middlebury Inn on Saturday afternoon around 4:30, just about the time that registration was open in the lobby. I picked up my number (60 this year!) and my tech tee shirt.
We checked in, dumped our bags, and walked around Middlebury to find something to eat. Ended up at Two Brothers Tavern, which had a great local menu. I had a mushroom flatbread, which was very tasty. I probably ate more than I should have, but eh, whatever, I was running a half the next day, right?
When we got back to the hotel to get Owen ready for bed that night, we realized – there was a wedding reception going on, literally right underneath us. As Owen was showering I called the front desk to find out what time it was over; mostly for Owen’s benefit rather than mine. Because the last time we stayed at the Inn was in 2010, when he was two… and he was up for 2 hours overnight, enough that Jeff drove him around the area in the car from 3:30 – 6am so that I could get some sleep.
So when we ended up driving Owen around at 8:30pm that night, because he said, Mommy, it’s too loud, it was a funny sort of kismet. We were back in the room at 9, though, and sure enough the wedding was over, and Jeff and I hit the sack not too long thereafter.
Gotta say, I slept like crap. Was one of those nights where you believe you’re awake all night but know at some point you must have slept. It was a relief to get up at 5:30 on race morning, that’s for sure.
Jeff went and got us bagels; I had a sesame bagel with cream cheese. I know it’s breaking a rule to eat something you don’t normally eat before a race, but I had the same thing the morning of my marathon last October with no issues, so I thought I’d be safe. Through the race nerves I managed to eat the entire thing but couldn’t stomach my coffee.
The weather said that it was going to warm up and that by 11am it would be in the low 60s, so I dressed light – tech tee shirt and capri running tights. I brought a long sleeved shirt to wear over top before the race started. My barometer before races is how cold I am. If I’m shivering, I’m dressed well enough for the race. 🙂 And I was chilly when we first got there, so all was good.
A couple of weeks ago, I decided that for this race, I was going to use music. I don’t often listen to my shuffle when I’m running, but I thought it would help me focus and allow me to dig deep when I knew I needed it. So at the start, I put on my headphones and started things up.
My goal for the race was to run to feel but aim at 9:00 until the massive hill at mile 7, then accelerate if I had it in me. I knew that it wasn’t going to be a steady 9 minute mile, though, given the hills on the course, so I really tried to focus on running to feel instead of being ruled by the numbers.
The race course is a downhill for the first couple of miles, which I could tell as we started, so they went by pretty quickly. I averaged 8:51 for both miles, which I knew was fast, but not fast enough to worry me.
Pretty steady incline at miles 3-5 as we turned towards the horse farm. Here I tried to keep running to feel, not pushing it too much, keeping my breath in check, and recovering on the (too few!) downhill rollers. Here, also, was when I first started to feel nauseated, like I was going to puke. I kept burping, felt unsettled, and wondered if this race would be my “boot and rally” claim to fame. Which, I admit, worried me. If I was close to puking at mile 5, what would it feel like at mile 12?
Told myself that the nausea was a sensation, and the FEELING about it was fear about something in the future. I was in the NOW. I’d worry about the puking issue later.
My average pace ticked up to about 8:58 here, so I just tried to stay the course.
Mile 1 – 8:51
Mile 2 – 8:51
Mile 3 – 9:08
Mile 4 – 9:06
Mile 5 – 9:12
And then, mile 6 was a dowhill and flat section, which felt effortless after spending three miles climbing. I wanted to make up a little bit of time and bring my average pace back down without going crazy, so I let myself go a little faster. And the puke sensation stopped, thank goodness. I felt pretty good.
But then, THEN was the big hill at Middlebury College. I remembered this from 2010 – was where I walked for the first time.
No way was I walking it again. Oh man, it hurt, but whatever, I ran the whole damn thing. And yep, I was pretty sure I was going to puke. Ugh.
Mile 6 – 8:34
Mile 7 – 9:06
At the top of the hill, I saw Jeff and Owen for the second time (saw them once at the start), and ran over and gave Owen a HUGE hug and kissed Jeff. I was seriously on top of the world – felt SO good and strong and READY. Decided while I was at that point to choke down a Carb Boom at the water stop just past mile 7; I knew even though the pukey feeling was still there, I probably needed SOMETHING while I could tolerate it.
The next couple of miles passed pretty quickly, and I was still feeling good. Kept trying to bring my average pace back down but also run to feel. Legs at this point were starting to get tired, but still pretty good. I was still burping, but felt a little better than I had before. And I was thrilled that I had sustained a sub 9 minute mile average pace this long.
Mile 8 – 8:49
Mile 9 – 8:50
It was at Mile 10 where my legs were fatigued and ready to be done, the out and back portion which includes a couple of hills. I managed to hang on during Mile 10 and 11, but mile 12 I couldn’t do it. I had to walk the big ass hill there, lost a LOT of time. I was spitting and trying not to puke and watching my average pace tick up and my timer get really close to 2:00… and and and…
That was my low point for sure. But then I realized, hey wait a second, it’s only another mile. I can run a mile.
Mile 10 – 9:16
Mile 11 – 9:11
Mile 12 – 9:53
So I started running. And OMG my legs screamed with every step, and I decided to run with the girl next to me who was seriously slow but staying the course, and I kept with her until we got back to the pavement and I could see the turn for the finish line. And then I just shut up and ran. And Jeff says my face showed how much I was suffering, he said, You were gritting your teeth. I’ve never seen you without a smile at the finish before!
But I ran. And when I made the turn to go up to the finish line, I found the speed muscles and activated them and sprinted my way to the finish line. Passed a couple of people, too.
Mile 13 – 9:12
(.10) – 6:56
My garmin time had me at 1:59:06. They have results up on the website for PLACING, but not time, so I’m not actually sure I will get an official time. I started my garmin very close to the start line so I’m pretty sure that the official results would be within a couple of seconds from my time.
Either way, I did it. I broke a 2 hour half. On a hilly course. Without puking!
Seriously, I love looking at this. No wonder mile 12 was so awful – look at that hill. Ouch.
And the best part? NO issues with my IT band. Not one. My calves and hamstrings were screaming at the hills at mile 12, but not ONE twinge in my knee OR hip.
Always after a race, I look ahead. I clearly needed more hills in my training – a couple of long runs on hills isn’t really enough for this course. I didn’t consciously AVOID hills, but next time I will do some real hill training, which I know helps a lot. I think, too, I’d probably benefit from a couple of longer-than-half-distance runs, a couple of 13 and a 15, maybe, so the distance is a little more comfortable.
Doesn’t mean I’m not happy with my performance. But I can tell you – I have a 1:55 in me. I could have done 1:55 yesterday on a flat course.
Next one! 🙂